Black Panther: star Chadwick Boseman dies of cancer at 43 and his Final Tweet Is Now Twitter's Most-Liked Ever
Chadwick Boseman, who played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown with searing intensity before inspiring audiences worldwide as the regal Black Panther in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise, died Friday of cancer. He was 43.
NEWS PROVIDED BY apnews Apr 2, 2020, 03:58 ET
ST. LOUIS, May.1, 2020 /MateFit/ -- Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Associated Press.
Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more - all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.
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Born in South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His striking portrayal of the stoic baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013′s “42” drew attention in Hollywood and made him a star.
A year later, he wowed audiences as Brown in the biopic “Get On Up.”
Boseman died on a day that Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson day. “His transcendent performance in ‘42’ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come,” the league wrote in a tweet.
Boseman in April 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
Expressions of shock and despair poured in late Friday from fellow actors, athletes, musicians, Hollywood titans, fans and politicians. Viola Davis, who acted alongside Boseman in “Get On Up” and an upcoming August Wilson adaptation, tweeted: “Chadwick.....no words to express my devastation of losing you. Your talent, your spirit, your heart, your authenticity.”
“This is a crushing blow” actor and director Jordan Peele said on Twitter.
Disney executive chairman Bob Iger called Boseman “an extraordinary talent, and one of the most gentle and giving souls I have ever met. He brought enormous strength, dignity and depth to his groundbreaking role of Black Panther.”
“Captain America” actor Chris Evans called Boseman “a true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted that Boseman “inspired generations and showed them they can be anything they want — even super heroes.”
Boseman at the 2016 Oscars. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016′s “Captain America: Civil War,” and his “Wakanda Forever” salute reverberated around the world after the release of “Black Panther” two years ago.
“I don’t think the world was ready for a ‘Black Panther’ movie before this moment. Socially and politically, it wasn’t ready for it,” he told AP at the time.
The film’s vision of Afrofuturism and the technologically advanced civilization of Wakanda resonated with audiences, some of whom wore African attire to showings and helped propel “Black Panther” to more than $1.3 billion in global box office. It is the only Marvel Studios film to receive a best picture Oscar nomination.
Boseman said he more easily identified with the film’s antagonist, played by Michael B. Jordan, who had been cut off from his ancestral roots: “I was born with some Killmonger in me, and I have learned to T’Challa throughout my studies,” he told AP while promoting the film.
“It’s the place where you start. All African Americans, unless they have some direct connection, have been severed from that past. There’s things that cannot be tracked,” he continued. “You were a product, sold. So it’s very difficult as an African American to connect at some points directly to Africa. I have made that part of my search in my life. So those things were already there when I got into the role.”
The character was last seen standing silently dressed in a black suit at Tony Stark’s funeral in last year’s “Avengers: Endgame.” A “Black Panther” sequel had been announced, and was one of the studio’s most anticipated upcoming films.
Boseman at the 2018 Oscars. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Even at the outset of his Hollywood career, Boseman was clear-eyed about — and even skeptical of — the industry in which he would become an international star.
“You don’t have the same exact experience as a Black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities. That’s evident and true,” he told AP while promoting “42.” “The best way to put it is: How often do you see a movie about a black hero who has a love story ... he has a spirituality. He has an intellect. It’s weird to say it, but it doesn’t happen that often.”
In addition to Robinson and Brown, Boseman portrayed the future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017′s “Marshall.” He humanized the larger-than-life historical figures with the same reserved dignity — interrupted by flashes of sparkling wit — that he would later bring to T’Challa.
He took on his first producing job in last year’s action thriller “21 Bridges,” in which he also starred, and was last seen on-screen in Spike Lee’s film “Da 5 Bloods” as the leader of a group of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War.
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Boseman completed one last performance, in an adaptation of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The Netflix film finished shooting last summer.
It took some time for Boseman’s moment to come. He first got into theater, acting and writing plays as an undergrad at Howard. He visited Africa for the first time during college with director and theater professor Mike Malone, working in Ghana to preserve and celebrate rituals with performances on a proscenium stage. He later called the trip “one of the most significant learning experiences of my life.”
Boseman in January 2019. Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)
Boseman had roles on TV shows like ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights” and NBC’s “Persons Unknown,” but before “42” he had only acted in one film, 2008’s football drama “The Express.”
Asked about his own childhood heroes and icons, Boseman cited Black political leaders and musicians: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Prince. Deeply private and often guarded in his public appearances and interviews, he made clear that he understood the significance of his work and its impact on the broader culture.
At the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Award, “Black Panther” won best ensemble, electrifying the room. Before an auditorium full of actors, Chadwick Boseman stepped to the microphone. He quoted Nina Simone: “To be young, gifted and black,” and put the moment in context.
“We know what it’s like to be told there isn’t a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. ... We know what’s like to be beneath and not above. And that is what we went to work with every day,” said Boseman. “We knew that we could create a world that exemplified a world we wanted to see. We knew that we had something to give.”
AP Film Writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.
Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman dies of cancer at 43 and his Final Tweet Is Now Twitter's Most-Liked Ever
On Friday, Chadwick Boseman's family posted a final tweet on his Twitter account, announcing that he had died after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Twitter confirmed on Saturday afternoon that this tweet from Boseman's account is now the most-liked tweet on Twitter of all time.
"Most liked tweet ever. A tribute fit for a King. #WakandaForever," Twitter posted on its official account.
"It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman," Boseman's family wrote. "Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV. A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T'Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side. The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time."
After this tweet went out on Friday night, fans and co-stars alike published their tributes to the late actor.
"I keep thinking about my 3-year-old in his Black Panther costume," the writer Clint Smith tweeted. "How he wore it almost every day when he got it, refused to take it off. The way he walked around saying. 'I'm the Black Panther.' How happy it made him. What Chadwick gave us was immeasurable. What an enormous loss."
Both Michelle and Barack Obama wrote individual tributes to Boseman and both recounted watching his Jackie Robinson biopic for the first time, when they shared time at the White House.
"There's a reason he could play Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and King T'Challa with such captivating depth and honesty," the former first lady wrote. "He, too, knew what it meant to truly persevere. He, too, knew that real strength starts inside. And he, too, belongs right there with them as a hero—for Black kids and for all of our kids. There's no better gift with which to grace our world. ❤️"
Chadwick Boseman In His Own Words
Editor's note: This story contains a racial slur.
In his movie roles, Chadwick Boseman was praised for bringing dignity and humanity to icons in the fight for racial justice — figures like Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and James Brown. He also inspired millions as the superhero Black Panther.
'Black Panther' Star Chadwick Boseman Dies Of Cancer At Age 43
ARTS & LIFE
Off-screen, Boseman was beloved as a role model in his own right — a star who overcame early obstacles to become a voice of encouragement, especially to young Black people. He spoke often about the contributions of his predecessors, including those he portrayed on screen, and was open about his own challenges finding success as a Black man in America.
Boseman died Friday after battling colon cancer for four years. He was 43.
On challenging stereotypes
Boseman graduated from Howard University in 2000 and returned in 2018 to give the commencement address at the historically Black university. He spoke of getting fired from an early acting role because he questioned the show's producers about it playing on stereotypes.
"Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it," he told the class of 2018.
"Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose," he said. "When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny."
Howard University via YouTube
On being "young, gifted and Black" in Hollywood
In addition to being a box office hit, Black Panther was praised for its positive portrayal of Africans, featuring a Black superhero as its star, with a mostly Black cast and a Black director.
The film won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards. Boseman gave the acceptance speech.
"To be young, gifted and Black, we all know what it's like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured," he said. "Yet, you are young, gifted and Black. We know what it's like to be told to say there is not a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on.
"We know what it's like to be a tail and not the head. We know what it's like to be beneath and not above. And that is what we went to work with every day because we knew, not that we would be around during awards season and that it would make a billion dollars, but we knew that we had something special that we wanted to give the world. That we could be full human beings in the roles that we were playing. That we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see."
TNT via YouTube
On Jackie Robinson
In one of his early roles to garner broad acclaim, Boseman played Jackie Robinson, who endured racist attacks, physical and verbal, for breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947.
Boseman told NPR in 2013 that he took the role seriously, because he wanted "to do right by the family" and not disappoint Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson.
As part of the movie, Boseman had to hear the racist language that Robinson endured.
"You do get angry," hearing it, he told NPR in 2013. "And you do feel, in a slice of that reality, somewhat like he would feel. And it's an incredible amount of courage to deal with that."
In '42,' A Young Star Suits Up For A Hero's Role
On Thurgood Marshall
Boseman portrayed the man who became the country's first Black Supreme Court Justice in the 2017 film Marshall. It takes place in 1941, when Marshall was a young lawyer with the NAACP. He was defending a Black man who was accused of raping a white woman in Connecticut.
Boseman told NPR in 2017 that he understood Marshall at this period of his life was "a man about town. He's a man who enjoys life. ... And he is putting that on the line to go fight in places where he's not wanted."
NPR's Michel Martin asked Boseman about portraying Marshall, who grew up in an era of legalized racial discrimination.
"I'm from Anderson, S.C., but I grew up in the South," Boseman responded. "So I know what it is to ride to school and have Confederate flags flying from trucks in front of me and behind me, to see a parking lot full of people with Confederate flags and know what that means. I've been stopped by police for no reason. I've been called 'boy' and 'nigger' and everything else that you could imagine. Along with the great hospitality that is in the South, that is part of it."
Actor Chadwick Boseman On His New Role As 'Marshall'
On Denzel Washington
Boseman on multiple occasions told the story of how when he was a student at Howard, he got the opportunity to do a summer program to study theater at Oxford in England. Boseman and some other classmates couldn't afford to pay for the program. But his teacher at Howard, Phylicia Rashad, was able to gather some funds from some of her friends. He later found out his "benefactor was none other than the dopest actor on the planet," Denzel Washington.
"There is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington," he told an audience gathered to present Washington with an AFI Life Achievement Award in 2019. "And not just because of me, but my whole cast, that generation stands on your shoulders."
On Friday, Washington remembered Boseman as "a gentle soul and a brilliant artist, who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career. God bless Chadwick Boseman."